Problems confirmed in delayed canola harvest

For the second time in four years, the Canadian Grain Commission has conducted research on canola sown in spring and harvested the following spring.

Poor harvest conditions in the fall of 2019 meant an unusually large number of western Canadian canola acres could not be harvested before winter.

The CGC’s latest study examined 106 spring harvested canola samples that were graded and analyzed for oil quality.

A total of 29 samples out of 106 (27.4 percent) were graded as Canada No. 1, another 36 samples (34 percent) were graded Canada No. 2, and 22 samples (20.8 percent) were graded Canada No. 3.

The remaining 19 submissions were graded Sample, the lowest grade.

Veronique Barthet, CGC’s program manager for oilseeds monitoring and research, said there were similarities between research carried out in 2017 and 2020 findings.

Most notably, free fatty acid (FFA) content is typically higher in spring-harvested canola.

Free fatty acids are caused when triglycerides begin to break down in the canola seed.

Elevated FFAs in canola are problematic for crushers because they can produce a lower quality oil that is prone to discolouration and rancidity.

“When there is moisture in the seeds, they are going to germinate and that’s the reason why you have free fatty acids in winter canola most of the time,” Barthet said.

Of the 106 spring-harvested samples examined in 2020, some had FFA levels similar to the autumn-harvested canola, which suggests samples could be used to produce good quality crude canola oil, the study said.

But generally, FFA levels in spring-harvested material were higher.

“There is still some canola that graded No. 1 but even for the samples that graded No. 1, some were really good but some started to show free fatty acids,” Barthet said.

Elevated FFA levels may not be detected visually and may not result in a lower grade. They must be measured through laboratory analysis.

FFA levels may also increase during storage for both fall-harvested and spring-harvested material.

However, in stored canola, FFA levels typically increase faster in overwintered canola than in autumn-harvested canola.

In other words, overwintered canola samples should be processed as soon as possible to avoid deterioration.

The results of Barthet’s research can be viewed online here.

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